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Cullen's gone . . . and with €250k package

RETIRING minister Martin Cullen, whose chief legacy is the €52m e-voting fiasco, is to cash in with a glorious payday --compliments of two pensions, a severance payment and a non-taxable lump sum.

The payments by the time he is 60, in just over three years time, will amount to a staggering €250,000.

The Waterford politician has left the Government coalition's Dail majority on a knife-edge after deciding that a chronic back problem warrants his resignation from public life.

But the 56-year-old is set to walk away from Leinster House with a hefty payout that will include a ministerial pension which will be worth €60,000-a-year, while he will be entitled to severance pay worth almost €79,000.

Having served in the Dail for 23 years, he will also get a TD's pension worth €46,500 and a lump sum payment as part of his pension worth nearly €140,000.

He can't collect all the money straight away but will have made well over €250,000 by the time he turns 60.

His decision to leave politics eases the pressure on Brian Cowen as he faces a politically difficult Cabinet reshuffle, but it also slims down the Taoiseach majority in the House. The Government is now facing three by-elections in Waterford, Dublin South and Donegal South West and has very little prospect of winning any of them.

Mr Cullen's decision to leave his ministry had been signalled last January but he surprised many of his colleagues by also opting to quit as a TD.

He is the fifth high-profile resignation since George Lee left Fine Gael a month ago.

Since then the Green Party has lost disgruntled ex-senator Deirdre de Burca.


Trevor Sargent resigned as a junior minister after the Herald revealed he attempted to interfere in the course of justice.

Fianna Fail stalwart Willie O'Dea was also forced to leave the Department of Defence after allegations that he lied in evidence to a court.

In his resignation letter, Mr Cullen told the Taoiseach: "I have always been a fighter and optimistic in both my personal and political life. However, my consultant's advice is my condition is deteriorating further and options for treatment and recovery are narrowing.

"As a result of my current medical condition, and taking advice from my medical consultants, it is with regret that I must now retire from public life."

Mr Cullen was involved in a bad car accident several years ago in which he broke his neck. "I was in hospital for a long time. I consider myself very lucky that I recovered from that and got so many years without the trouble I have faced today," he explained.

"I have chronic back problems and they are getting worse and worse."

He said that he hoped the Department of Arts, Sports and Tourism would not be broken up, as widely anticipated.

Labour Party leader Eamon Gilmore said last night that the resignation left the Government in a very fragile position.

"While his resignation as a minister had been widely expected his decision to resign as a TD is a shock and will further erode the stability and life expectancy of the Government," he said.

The Taoiseach wished Mr Cullen well and said he "respects the minister's intention to retire also from his role as a public representative in the light of his assessment that he would not be in a position to discharge these duties in the future".

The Cabinet reshuffle is to take place shortly after Mr Cowen returns from the traditional St Patrick's Day visit to the White House.